I made a list of errands on Monday: Go to the dentist, get a SIM card for my phone, put air in my tires, buy a gun.
I accomplished everything on the list except for the last item, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I crossed Colorado Avenue heading west over I-25 and drove the measly minute from campus before I found myself at Paradise Sales, a local gun shop.
Its unassuming stucco exterior and my inability to follow directions took me about a mile out of my way. However, it was lucky that the woman in the navy USA T-shirt knew exactly where to point me. When I did finally make it into Paradise Sales, it was both exactly what I expected and completely different
When you walk in, the first thing you will notice is the stale smell of cigarettes clinging to everything. Then the stock. This detail isn’t the surprising part, but guns are everywhere.
Rifles lean in rows against the wall, in wooden racks. Handguns live in glass cases that serve as the counter. Then, you’ll notice the line.
On Monday at around 3 p.m., the store was jammed with a dozen other customers. A black woman leaned against the counter pointing at handguns that the man quickly drew from the case. Two men, a little older than college-aged, admired hunting knives in the corner.
A balding man in a business suit left with a box of ammo and a handgun, all in an almost-opaque blue plastic bag. A dog wove in between customers’ legs, then retreated into the back.
I sit down in one of two faded green armchairs and survey the scene while I wait. Leather holsters for handgun litter shelves, boxes stack precariously on the ends of the counter. On the wall was a shirt with the motto, “I CARRY A GUN BECAUSE I CAN’T CARRY A COP.”
The shirt is just over 15 dollars with tax.
On the opposite wall, just above the row of rifles, is an NRA banner that reads, “SECOND AMMENDMENT TASK FORCE.”
I stand up and walk around the store. There is a flyer posted on the side of a computer that breaks down causes of deaths in 2011. The paper cites that there were 323 deaths by semi-automatic rifles, 496 by hammers, 650 by knives, 12,000 by drunk drivers, and 195,000 by medical malpractice.
Then in red bold letters it proclaims, “You are 600 times more likely to die by using your OBAMACARE than by a semi-automatic rifle. So feel sick?”
Besides that poster is another about nail guns and the lack of registration and certification needed to purchase one.
“Washington thinks they are going to take away our guns, but what about this?”
The sign pictures a yellow and black nail gun with the ability to launch a nail through a 2-by-4 at 200 yards. The flyer goes on to say that the nail gun is a perfect father’s day gift, then in all caps, “THANK YOU DeWALT!!!”
I retreated back to my seat and waited to be called. An older man asked about ammunition which wasn’t in stock, and a younger man asked about which credit cards are accepted and their layaway options. Finally, it was my turn.
A blonde woman introduced herself as Cori. I told her I wanted a gun for protection, but didn’t know much about them and we were off.
She asked me a series of questions: Would this gun be for concealed carry or would it be for the home? Did I have any preference in guns?
With it established that I just wanted it for my house in case of an intruder or something like that, she led me to a case of 9mm semi-automatic handguns. She looked at my hand and tried to find a size that was suitable.
“The best way for you to figure out what you like is to try ‘em out,” Cori said, as she pulled out a few from the case.
She demonstrated the proper hold, then handed over the first gun to me. I have handled guns before, but it came back to me slowly and she made me practice my hands around the grip. The final gun we tried was a Beretta, which felt heavy in the hand.
“No, that’s good,” she said. “Don’t worry. You won’t get as much of a kickback.”
I think she could tell I am not completely sold and she moved on to talk about ammo.
“So, what kind of bullets do you think you’ll want to be using?” she asks. “Well, for you, I would recommend a hollow-point bullet.”
She rummaged around on the shelf behind her and pulls out a few sample bullets.
“Hollow-point bullets expand on contact so this will do more damage to the bad guys,” she said, dropping a squished round into my hand. “They’re also nice for guns meant for indoor protection because they have a harder time going through walls.”
I inspected the chunk of metal in my hand, then commented that the expanded bullet looks like a blooming flower. She smiled.
“Yeah, they make jewelry out of ‘em sometimes,” Cori said.
She brought me a few counters down to the case with all revolvers.
Cori pulled out a few for me to hold and said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go get my gun and you can feel that one, as well.” She retreated into the back and it was only as she walked away that I noticed a gun holstered on her belt.
I grinned at the bubblegum pink handgun one case over, then turned my attention back to the revolvers in front of me. Cori returned and let me hold her own gun. I told her I really liked it and she told me that she bought it online.
“You know, you could do that too if you wanted. By a gun off of a website like gunbroker.com or something, just don’t pay too much for it,” she said.
“How does that work? Would I still need to go through a background check and stuff?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, of course. But the gun would be sent here and we would do the background and facilitate the order,” Cori said.
At this point, I figured it was time to talk some shop and I asked the details of how to buy a gun.
“Well, are you a resident of Colorado?” she asked.
A long pause. “I’m not. Is that a problem?”
Cori nodded. “You gotta be a resident of Colorado or one of the states touching it to buy a gun, but I’d recommend you just switch your residency over. Then you bring me your license and we’ll see what we can do for you.”
“What about background checks? How long do they take?” I asked.
“Well, they used to only take about 20 minutes. Now, they take up to 10 days with all the backup in the system,” she said. “Now, what I would do is look up guns at home and see what you like. They can be intimidating I know, but there are lots of blogs out there that could help you choose a weapon that is appropriate for your needs. My personal favorite is gundiva.com.”
She wrote down a couple types of manufacturers and models that I should investigate and I left the store, the line behind me a mere five people long.
Ming Lee Newcomb